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Toshiba Portege Z935-P300 review: An excellent ultrabook value

A good mix of components, a slim, lightweight body, and a reasonable price make the Portege Z935-P300 an excellent ultrabook value.

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Joshua Goldman
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Joshua Goldman

Managing Editor / Advice

Josh Goldman helps people find the best laptop at the best price -- from simple Chromebooks to high-end gaming laptops. He's been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software for more than two decades.

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7 min read

Editors' note: According to Toshiba's specification information for the Portege Z935-P300, the RAM is not user upgradeable. However, one of our readers, "fozzyfozborne," confirms that while 2GB of the Z935-P300 memory is fixed to the motherboard, there is a slot with a 2GB stick of removable memory. You will need a Phillips-head screwdriver as well as a T7 security bit to remove the entire bottom cover of the system. This review has been changed to reflect this.

Toshiba Portege Z935-P300
7.7

Toshiba Portege Z935-P300

The Good

The <b>Toshiba Portege Z935-P300</b> has very good features, performance, and battery life for its price and is very thin and very light.

The Bad

The Z935-P300's keyboard may be too small for some users and the laptop doesn't feel particularly sturdy, especially the lid/display.

The Bottom Line

The Toshiba Portege Z935-P300 is an excellent ultrabook value if you can overlook its few design shortcomings.

The Toshiba Portege Z930 series is a textbook example of a mainstream ultrabook. It's thin, it's light, its battery life is very good, and the entry-point model I tested, the Z935-P300, has enough processing performance for normal everyday computing.

It also isn't any different on the outside than its predecessor, the Z835. We had a few quibbles about that model, which are amplified for higher-priced versions in the series, but at the Z935-P300's $862.50 MSRP they're not deal-breakers, and on the whole the Z935-P300 is an excellent value.

Design
The Z935 is an inoffensive-looking laptop featuring a magnesium alloy chassis with a brushed finish. People likely won't be craning their necks to see what laptop you're using at the coffee shop; it's one that blends in. On the other hand, the large chrome "Toshiba" on the lid will definitely let people know what brand it is. And if you like stickers, this system's got plenty: six on the palm rests and three on the bottom. (You can always remove them with a little effort, but it's one of those things that is less than thrilling to see when you open up a new laptop.)

Sarah Tew/CNET

Other things that cheapen its appearance are the plastic chrome accents by the screen hinges and the chrome power and touch-pad buttons. Putting chrome on things you'll be touching isn't a good idea unless you like looking at fingerprints all the time, and while I understand the desire to add interest to the design, it's unnecessary. More importantly, there is a lot of flex to the lid, which, if you're not careful about handling it, could damage the screen. That said, if you care more about performance, size, and weight, then none of these things matter and certainly don't affect performance.

What might slow you down, however, is the keyboard. If you like big comfortable keys with a lot of travel, this probably isn't the laptop for you. The keys are shrunken; they're a normal width, but shortened. Basically, it can take some adjustment if you're a sloppy typist or are simply used to larger keys. The travel is quite shallow, too, but with a laptop this size that's understandable. On the upside, the keys are backlit and the keyboard itself is spill-resistant.

Other than the chrome buttons, the touch pad is fine: responsive and with the Synaptics' usual assortment of multitouch tools for two-finger scrolling, pinch-to-zoom, and rotate, among other options. I also didn't experience any cursor jumps from my palms brushing the touch pad while typing.

Features
Compared with the components used in the Z835-P370 we tested earlier this year, the Z935-P300 has a new third-generation ultralow-voltage dual-core Core i5 processor and less, but faster RAM. It comes in at a lower price, too, all without sacrificing its 128GB solid-state drive (SSD) for storage or extras like Bluetooth and Intel Wireless Display support.

Price as reviewed $862.50
Processor 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U
Memory 4GB, 1,600MHz DDR3
Hard drive 128GB SSD
Chipset Intel HM76 Express
Graphics Intel HD
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
Dimensions (WD) 12.4x8.9 inches
Height 0.63 inch
Screen size (diagonal) 13.3 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 2.5 pounds / 3.1 pounds
Category 13-inch

The display on the Z935 has the same 1,366x768-pixel native resolution as the vast majority of 11- to 15-inch laptops. That's fine for a sub-$1,000 laptop, but some of the other thin 13-inch models offer more; the Asus Zenbook, for example, has a 1,920x1,080-pixel screen, and the MacBook Air is 1,440x900 pixels. Generally speaking, the screen gets the job done -- no more, no less. Horizontal off-axis viewing is OK, though you'll have to adjust the screen angle so it doesn't completely invert colors.

The front-firing stereo speakers are fine for impromptu music and movies, but you'll want to connect some headphones or desktop speakers for a more enjoyable experience.

Toshiba Portege Z935 Average for category [13-inch]
Video VGA plus HDMI; Intel WiDi-ready VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, SD card reader 2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, SD card reader
Networking Ethernet, Bluetooth, 802.11n Wi-Fi Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive None DVD burner

The Z935-P300 has a well-rounded selection of ports and connections, including USB 3.0 and an Ethernet jack, the latter of which some of the other ultrabooks don't have. One of the USB 2.0 ports has Toshiba's Sleep and Charge feature that makes it possible to charge a device even while the computer is sleeping.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As for software, along with the stuff that's included with Windows 7, Toshiba installs a long list of utilities for everything from improving battery life to controlling the built-in Webcam to Toshiba's ReelTime, which gives you a visual timeline of recently opened documents, photos, and videos. And as part of the Intel Ultrabook package, you get Intel Anti-Theft Technology, which can disable the laptop if it is lost or stolen as soon as it's connected to the Internet or after a certain number of days.

Battery life
The Portege Z935-P300 lasted for just more than 5 hours of running our video playback battery drain test. Both the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A and Samsung Series 9 were able to keep going past the 6-hour mark, but they're more expensive and the Toshiba essentially matches them or beats them in performance.

Running video really taxes the battery, too, so if you're just doing more basic tasks you can expect to get more than 5 hours of uptime with some power management. Also, if you like having the ability to swap batteries, the Z935-P300 does not have an easily replaceable battery pack.

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Load test (avg watts)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Performance
Despite having an ultralow-voltage processor and 2GB less memory than the Z835 we reviewed, the Z935-P300 outperformed it. It's also able to beat or keep pace with similarly configured ultrabooks from other manufacturers, but at a lower price.

As long as your needs don't stretch too far beyond the basics (such as Web browsing, streaming video and music, casual gaming, office tasks, and light photo and video editing), this ultrabook should be able to handle them relatively well.

That said, if you have more demanding tasks in mind for this laptop, Toshiba does sell other configurations with more memory and a faster Core i7 processor. Also, only 2GB of this system's RAM is fixed to the its motherboard; the other 2GB is a user-replaceable stick that can be swapped out for more memory.

Warranty and support
Toshiba includes an industry-standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty with the system. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line, and a customized support search page can direct you to online documents and driver downloads for this specific model.

Conclusion
With the same design as its predecessor and improved components, Toshiba's Portege Z935-P300 is an excellent value for an ultrabook. Its physical flaws are harder to overlook in pricier versions of this model. But since the starting-point Z935-P300 model is currently available for less $850, I'm more concerned with performance and battery life, and it does just fine in those areas.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test Windows laptops.

System configurations:

Toshiba Portege Z935-P300
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Toshiba SSD

Lenovo IdeaPad U310
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Samsung 5,400rpm

HP Envy Spectre XT 13-2050nr
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Samsung SSD

Samsung Series 9 NP900X3C (13-inch, 2012)
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 128GB SanDisk SSD

Dell Inspiron 13z - 5323
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Western Digital 5,400rpm

Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Adata XM11 SSD

Toshiba Portege Z935-P300
7.7

Toshiba Portege Z935-P300

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 8Battery 8Support 7
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